The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was a pivotal piece of legislation for individuals with disabilities; it required workplaces and public spaces to accommodate the needs of those with disabilities and protected them from discrimination in the workplace. Subsequent case law and amendments have further supplemented the ADA to provide even greater protections and opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

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The ADA has been misunderstood by some, particularly with regard to its anti-discrimination provisions. People think it means that individuals with disabilities cannot be fired or that a business has to do everything possible to accommodate an employee with a disability. The policy only requires reasonable accommodation and no discrimination. Reasonable accommodation varies based on the industry, the employer, and the individual, as well as a number of other factors that may be specific to the particular workplace. Most of the time, an accommodation is considered reasonable so long as it meets the need of the employee without creating too much cost or difficulty for the employer. Claims of disability discrimination in the workplace often focus on these accommodations and what is and is not reasonable. No discrimination means only that a person with a disability cannot be fired simply because of his or her disability; however, anyone can be fired for a failure to do the job or a failure to meet general standards.

In most legal analyses, the courts apply an “objective, reasonable person” standard. They don't consider the various circumstances or factors involving the particular person or company involved in the case. However, in disability cases, a modified reasonable person and reasonable accommodation standard is applied. Reasonable here must take into account various factors. The reasonable person is a reasonable person with the disability in question. A reasonable accommodation is reasonable for that disabled person in that industry, modified by the business's actual abilities. In other words, if a business cannot install an accessible lift without spending a significant amount of money that it does not have, the lift could represent an unreasonable burden. If the business could instead install a ramp, that accommodation would probably be considered reasonable, even if it's not what the employee requested.

For more help with disability discrimination in the workplace, speak to an employment lawyer.

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